House passes voucher plan for Washington students

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives is refusing to let its school-voucher plan for the District of Columbia die.

As in years past, the House tacked an amendment onto the spending bill for Washington that would provide tuition subsidies for students in the nation's capital to use at private or religious schools. The proposal passed earlier this month in a mostly party-line vote of 214-208.

Last year, President Clinton vetoed the D.C. spending plan because of his objections to a similar voucher proposal. Congress returned the bill without the voucher provisions and Clinton signed it.

In April, Congress passed a stand-alone voucher initiative, prompting another presidential veto.

The Orthodox Union, a leading proponent of school vouchers, said it hopes Clinton "will pause for a moment, and consider the opportunity that the passage of this legislation provides."

The nation's capital should be allowed to serve as a laboratory to "test the thesis of whether voucher plans can provide children with greater educational opportunities," said Nathan Diament, director of the O.U.'s Institute for Public Affairs.

Other Jewish groups will urge Clinton to veto the initiative yet again.

David Harris, director of the American Jewish Congress' Washington office, said the notion of using Washington as a testing lab "totally disregards the will of its residents."

The measure, sponsored by House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) and Rep. William Lipinski (D-Ill.), would provide up to $3,200 in tuition subsidies to 2,000 low-income students for use at the private or parochial school of their choice.

The Clinton administration stated that the voucher program would "draw resources and attention away from the hard work of reforming public schools that serve the overwhelming majority of D.C. students."